Friday, February 27, 2015

The Trellis

I am a branch. Trellis me.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1-2).

For the longest time, I have feared that I would be a branch cut off and thrown into the fire. For the longest time, I have wondered of the patience God must have to still be keeping me attached to the vine. There have been moments when I tried to count the hours or days or years until I find myself totally lost and alone. How wrong I have been.

*The following realization was made during the CCF Overflow Leadership Conference and the panic research conducted after.*

When we say "cut off," we immediately think of being cast aside and separated, being of no use and thrown away. We think of being left in the dark, of being forgotten. We struggle with the thought of being a failure, of disappointing the people who matter to us---of disappointing God. "Someday, God will find your uselessness a hindrance to His plans and will take you away," we tell ourselves. "Take away" may mean just getting killed or, the lesser evil but certainly more destructive, being left to our own devices. We tell ourselves that if we continue being the "branch in me that bears no fruit," sooner or later, we will find ourselves punished. Or maybe we would find ourselves living the same way we have been and not really care.

Hopelessness. That's what happens to us. We find ourselves too much in dire straits and buried deep under the many compromises we have made that getting out seems impossible. We find it impossible. We find that no one can ever get us out. We think that no one will even try. Even Jesus says God will cut us off. Where is the hope in that?

What I have learned, however, demands a very different explanation.

In viticulture---which, in a nutshell, is the science of grapes---vines and branches are very obviously important. A vinedresser does not simply cut off branches and throw them away. A vinedresser is in charge of ensuring that all branches produce fruit, so throwing branches away as if they were weeds is not an option. What do they do then?

In Greek, the term for "cut off" is airo. Most of the time, people translate it as to "take away" or to "remove," which is in part true. But since we have established that vinedressers do not simply throw things away, many lean into another meaning for airo, "to raise up, elevate, lift up." Why elevate?

Vinedressers pick up branches that don't bear fruit and they clean them up. The branches might just be too pressed down on the ground. Then they tie them to a trellis.

They place them in trellises to make sure they get enough light and they stay clean from the ground. They continue to care for the branches until they do produce fruit.

This. Is. A. Revelation. Here I found myself mindblown, like, "What in the world?"

You know when we're so hopeless that we think that God will eventually throw us away? Well, God will not throw us away. In the first place, when you are in God, no one can snatch you away from Him. Why in the world would He be the one to throw you away? Secondly, God knows what He's doing. He is the Vinedresser. He takes care of us. He knows what we're going through, and He knows what we need.

There is hope.

God continues to be faithful in our lives. We can't see it all the time especially when we're down in the dirt and trying to see the light, feel the warmth of the sun. We can't see when we focus on our problems, on ourselves. But God is in control. He picks us up and cleans us up. He doesn't give up on us. He will not give up on you.

God will not give up on you.

Sure it hurts. Sure it feels like "Why is this happening to me?" Sure it makes us wonder if we really need to go through all the pain. But maybe we need to get through all this to get the answers. We cannot discount the hardships, but we cannot make them excuses.

So no matter how dirty you feel, no matter how useless you feel, let God pick you up and "trellis" you. We can't do this on our own. And we don't have to do it on our own. God will take care of us.

I am an unfruitful branch, and it has taken me this long to acknowledge it outright. So finally realizing that there is still hope gives light to everything that has happened in my life. I have been in the dirt, and finally I am hanging on a trellis. I am holding on to that hope. There is hope because our faith is found in God, our God who is sovereign and faithful and mighty and just and loving. Our faith and hope is in the Lord who has already shown us in the most amazing way how much He cares for us---sending His Son to die for sinners, for people who are unworthy of anything, people like you and me. Jesus paid the price for our stupidity, for our recklessness. He took our punishment.

And now God still cares for us despite our "uselessness" and gives us another hope: we are trellised. He is not giving up on us, so why should we give up on this life?

There is hope. You are trellised.

"We see not what is seen, but what is unseen. We see with faith and not flesh, and since faith begets hope, we of all people are hope filled. For we know there is more to life than what meets the eye" (Every Day Deserves a Chance, Max Lucado).

"Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:5).

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Hold on. Hope on. God is not giving up on you.